AUGUST 28, 2017
As an elementary school teacher for almost 18 years, I know firsthand the impact that eating breakfast has on my students—hungry kids simply do not perform as well academically. Unfortunately, kicking off the day on an empty stomach is more common than you may think, with 42.2 million Americans living in food insecure households, including 13.1 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I currently teach students with special needs at a Title 1 school in Guilford County, North Carolina—the state’s third largest school district with 65.1 percent of the enrolled students living below the poverty line.
Four years ago, my school’s district received a grant from Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom enabling us to serve breakfast as part of the school day. The program takes the traditional cafeteria breakfast approach and improves it by moving it into the classroom. While most U.S. schools participate in the cafeteria program, barriers, including school bus schedules, late arrivals to school, pressure to go directly to class, and reluctance to be labeled “low-income,” have reduced rates for school breakfast participation .
By moving breakfast from the cafeteria into the classroom, every child, no matter the family’s income level, is able to receive a healthy start to their day. While some teachers and school leaders expressed skepticism about the change, I had hope. Not only do students receive the most important meal of the day, but it also creates a sense of community and comradery in the classroom, which is very special. Not to mention, it has a positive impact on both academics and behavior. Skepticism quickly changed to confidence as a routine was established and maintained, allowing the students to reap all of the benefits.